New building still coming, just slowly

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

Has it been two years yet? In January 2004, we announced the purchase of property at the site of the former A&P building on Franklin Street in downtown Natchez.

Our plan then was to renovate a portion of the A&P building and build new additions onto that building to serve as a new home for our newspaper facilities.

At the time of the announcement we anticipated completion in approximately two years time.

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Well, if you&8217;ve driven past the former A&P building lately, you&8217;ll notice that we didn&8217;t meet that deadline.

The building looks much like it did when we first purchased it.

And, despite what some folks may think, our plans are still to build at the site. Despite the apparent lack of progress at the site, have no doubt, work has been done on the building.

Sure, we may have become a bit delayed by the challenges of putting out a daily newspaper. Staff changes and Hurricane Katrina didn&8217;t help matters either.

But the real delay comes from our desire to really do a bang-up job on the new building.

You see, the newspaper building is more than just another structure to us.

First, it&8217;s the place where many of our staff spends a considerable amount of time.

The building is kind of our home away from home &8212; literally on some days.

Second, the building needs to &8220;fit&8221; the way in which we work now. At the time our current building was constructed, computers were the size of living rooms and were not part of producing a daily newspaper.

Today, computers are integral in our work in each department.

Finally, our building needs to be top-notch because it will take up a block of historic downtown Natchez.

In fact, the very site on which we&8217;re building was also the location of the first printing press in Mississippi, owned by printer Andrew Marschalk. In fact, Marschalk is known as the &8220;father of Mississippi journalism&8221; because he published five newspapers in the Natchez area.

Several months ago, as we began weighing all of that and looking at our nearly completed plan, we said, &8220;let&8217;s stop and reconsider this.&8221;

Architect Amelia Salmon&8217;s incredible patience was evident when she learned we wanted to completely flip the building around, especially when she was nearly finished designing it.

Through her hard work, however, has come a design that &8220;works&8221; much better for our employees and for the site, too.

Although the actual &8220;look&8221; of the building&8217;s exterior is still being finalized, the structure on the inside is set and we&8217;re happy with the way it works.

The new plan calls for the construction of a new building all along the side of the property facing Franklin Street. The new plan is something that I hope will be well received by Ron and Mimi Miller at the Historic Natchez Foundation. The current &8220;open corner&8221; on the site is never something planners like in a downtown landscape.

The existing A&P structure gets modified on each end and becomes the area for news and advertising on the Franklin Street side and becomes the pressroom and mailroom as the building extends away from Franklin toward Jefferson Street.

The new construction portion will feature something our current building lacks in almost every area &8212; windows. Natchez is a beautiful town, but it&8217;s difficult to see that from within our current cave of a building.

The new building should be much more open, bright and airy than our current confines.

So what&8217;s next? When will it be finished?

What&8217;s next is for us to decide the look of the building&8217;s &8220;skin&8221; and get all the appropriate approvals. Then it will be time to kick things in high gear and get rolling on construction.

We&8217;ve set a strict deadline for the project of being completed and ready to move in by June 2008, which we believe is still doable.

When it&8217;s completed, we look forward to welcoming you all into the new space that &8220;fits&8221; our readers, our downtown neighbors and us.

Is it June 2008 yet? I can&8217;t wait.

Kevin Cooper

is associate publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or